One of the commonest tobaccos is Virginia tobacco. It is often used in US and European 'blended' cigarettes, and in particular in the so-called 'English' Virginian-type cigarettes. The heavier grades are used in various kinds of mixtures for pipe smoking. Flue-cured tobacco is grown in more than seventy countries. The major exporting countries are China, the USA, Brazil, India and Zimbabwe. Around 40% of the world's tobacco is currently of a Virginian type plant. A well-grown plant reaches a total height of 160-190 cm, and will carry 18-22 harvestable leaves.
The tobacco plant is usually topped. The flower bud has to be removed before any flower has opened in order to concentrate the plant's efforts on leaf development. This topping is normally done two or three months after planting.
The tips are the leaves growing at the top of the tobacco plant. They are relatively narrow and pointed, but are usually heavier-bodied than leaves lower down the plant. Tips represent around 18% of the plant's total weight, and contain a nicotine level of about 3.5%. Leaf These leaves grow just below the tips and are characterised by their relative length, and are firm and heavy-bodied. Nicotine content can range from 3% to over 3.5%, while sugar level is around 15%.
"Smoking leaves" grow just above the middle of the stalk. They make up around 7.5% of the plant's total weight. These leaves ripen to a bright orange colour and contain about 3% nicotine. The sugar content is about the same as in the lugs.
This refers to the third group from the bottom. Cutters are the largest leaves on the plant (120-140 cm2), but account for only 8% of the total weight. They are characterised by their bright, lemon-to-orange colour. The sugar level rises to a peak in these leaves (14-22%), and the nicotine content is around 2.5%.
Lugs are the leaves around the bottom part of the stalk. They are characterised by their small size, thinness and brightness. They make up 13% of the plant's total weight. The nicotine content is around 2.5%, and the sugar level varies from 12-20%.
These are the leaves at the bottom part of the stalk. They are the first leaves to ripen, and the first to be harvested. They make up about 12% of the plant's weight. Primings contain only 1.5 to 2% nicotine and 5 to 10%) sugar.
Free drainage is vital to the root area of the plant. Even short periods of waterlogging may kill the tobacco plant.